Forest Action Plan
Rooted in Science. Driven by Collaboration.
The 2020 Colorado Forest Action Plan is the road map to improving forest health across Colorado.
Created by the Colorado State Forest Service and its many partners, this in-depth analysis of forest trends offers solutions and guidance for improving forest health and ensuring our forests — and the resources they provide — persevere for future generations.
Our forests play a vital role in what makes Colorado special. Forests provide:
- Habitat for Colorado’s abundant wildlife
- Clean air
- Clean water for Colorado residents, 18 other states and Mexico
- Forest products that support local economies
- World-renowned recreation opportunities
- Carbon sequestration that helps mitigate climate change
Colorado’s forests shape our state’s economic and social character, so investing in their health is crucial to make sure our state lives up to its well-deserved “Colorful Colorado” nickname. This Forest Action Plan will ensure the CSFS and its partners make those investments where they will make the most difference.
“About 10 percent of Colorado’s 24 million acres of forest need urgent attention to address forest health, wildﬁre risk and threats to water supplies.”
Colorado’s Forest Priorities
The 2020 Colorado Forest Action Plan offers conditions and trends, challenges and threats, and goals, strategies and approaches for six themes. Explore the plan (56 MB PDF) for more, including a map for each theme.
Colorado’s diverse forests cover about 24 million acres across a broad elevation gradient. Forests provide many benefits including clean water for agriculture, municipal and industrial use, recreation, habitat, grazing opportunities, nutrient cycling and soil retention, improved air quality and carbon sequestration and storage. They also provide for resource use and cultural significance and offer a sense of place.
Increasing pressures on forests are expected to continue as a changing climate challenges the forests’ natural defenses against insects and disease. Longer fire seasons and more uncharacteristic wildfires also are expected. Adaptive forest management will be necessary to address the dynamic threats to forest health in Colorado.
Wildfire plays a critical role in maintaining the health of many ecosystems in Colorado. Frequent, low-intensity fires burn in lower elevation montane forests to reduce understory vegetation, while high-intensity fire helps with regeneration in some high-elevation forest types, such as lodgepole pine.
A long legacy of fire suppression has altered historic fire cycles and led to the dangerous buildup of fuels in some areas. Coupled with the effects of climate change, this makes living with wildfire a challenge in Colorado. Risk-reduction practices must be promoted as populations increase in the wildland-urban interface.
Colorado’s forested watersheds deliver clean water to residents, 18 other states and Mexico, and provide the biological diversity needed for a future that is balanced both socially and ecologically. Current and expected future conditions, including persistent droughts and uncharacteristic wildfires, have and will continue to negatively impact forest health and the source water and habitat these forests provide. Water is an increasingly limited resource in Western states. Therefore, practicing forest management to improve forest health is critical to protecting and enhancing this precious resource.
Colorado’s forest habitats are home to diverse wildlife, including many of the 159 species that Colorado Parks and Wildlife identifies are in need of conservation. Habitat quality continues to be affected by widespread forest disturbances such as wildfire and insect and disease outbreaks, which can intensify with drought and climate change. These disturbances alter critical components of habitat, including native vegetation, water, food and cover. As urban development continues to threaten ecological connectivity, maintaining unfragmented forested habitat is essential.
Colorado’s urban areas are their own varied ecosystems, comprised of green infrastructure such as trees, yards, open spaces, parks, greenways, rivers, ponds and habitat corridors. These provide residents with access to clean air and water, reduce energy consumption and noise pollution, increase property values and enhance mental and physical health.
Important Colorado timber species include lodgepole pine, spruce, ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, true firs and aspen. In recent history, there has been a steep decline in the value of timber due to market conditions, widespread insect and disease infestations and large wildfires. Additionally, the loss of harvesting and processing capacity has contributed to a declining contractor workforce. To meet future timber harvesting and forest management program needs in Colorado, mill and workforce capacity must be addressed, and new and emerging markets such as biochar and pellets should be promoted.
Access the Forest Action Plan
- 2020 Colorado Forest Action Plan (56 MB PDF)
- Appendix 1: Colorado State-Wide Forest Legacy Assessment of Need (8.7 MB PDF)
- Appendix 2: Forest Action Plan Climate Change Risk Matrix Flow (140 KB PDF)
- Appendix 3: GIS Methods and Metadata (120 KB PDF)
- Appendix 4: CSFS Forest Action Plan External Stakeholder Meetings (100 KB PDF)
- Appendix 5: Digitized External Outreach Map (8.5 MB PDF)
- Appendix 6: Infrastructure Maps (1.9 MB PDF)
- Appendix 7: Average Costs by Forest Cover Type and CSFS Area, Including Case Studies (300 KB PDF)
- Appendix 8: Resource Strategy: Existing Program Alignment with Theme Goals and Strategies (320 KB PDF)
- Appendix 9: Colorado National Priorities Five-Year Report (126 KB PDF)
Do you love forests as much as we do?
The Forest Action Plan (Colorado Statewide Forest Resource Assessment & Strategy) was initiated in response to a mandate from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and contained in the Forestry Title of the 2008 Farm Bill (P.L. 110-234). The assessment and strategy were developed under the leadership of the Colorado State Forest Service and in accordance with national direction issued jointly by the USFS and the National Association of State Foresters (NASF).